Lebanon: Students miss half the school year due to double impact of economic and coronavirus crisis
Questionnaires with 137 youth provide snapshot view of challenges in maintaining education.
As students in Lebanon enter the fourth month of school closures linked to the coronavirus pandemic, many are unable to keep up with their school work due to inaccessible or inadequate remote learning, a Save the Children survey reveals. This interruption in their education follows earlier school closures in October - November when protests against economic uncertainty gripped the country. Save the Children is warning that students are at risk of forgoing their education, as access to learning decreases and families are pushed below the poverty line.
The survey of 137 Lebanese, and Palestinian and Syrian refugee children aged 12 to 24 reveals that:
- Three-quarters of youth find remote online learning difficult, with this number rising to 80% among girls.
- Two-thirds of youth reported the need for financial support as family members faced job loss.
- 90% of respondents said this financial support would firstly go towards buying food, and secondly for medicines (50%).
- 40% of children aged 15 to 18 years old said that the situation is taking a toll on their mental health.
Sahar, a 17 year-old Lebanese girl, said: “School has closed. My teachers are now using WhatsApp as an alternative, but we're finding it difficult to grasp the material. Our curriculum is hard as it is, let alone having to learn it over the phone.
“My sister was dismissed from work, so was my mother. My father, a taxi driver, is not allowed to work or leave the house. We're spending most, if not all, of our time at home, doing nothing.”
Children and youth are being impacted differently by school closures, depending on the community they belong to. While Lebanese learners had the option to follow an online curriculum, all those surveyed reported difficulties studying online. Syrians and Palestinians meanwhile reported that there was no provision for online learning through their schools. Many said that parents could not afford private tutors to finish their curriculum at home, and their education had effectively been suspended.
Khalid, 23, is a Syrian refugee who lost his job recently, and lives in one of Beirut’s crowded neighbourhoods. He told Save the Children:
“My routine changed completely. From going to work at 6:00 am and not coming back till late in the evening to this - staying at home all day. It is a challenge.”
In 2019, even before the closures linked to the economic and the coronavirus crises, almost half of school-aged Syrian children in Lebanon were not enrolled in public education. With more than 70% of refugees already living under the poverty line, school dropouts are likely to increase as families lose their livelihoods and can no longer afford to buy books, pay for transport and uniforms, and instead may rely on their children to go out to work.
Jad Sakr, Save the Children’s country director, said:
“Learning had already seen a huge interruption during the widespread demonstrations in October and November 2019. Schools are closed again, due to the coronavirus. Students have missed half of their school year already. Now, many families have seen their income reduced to zero. We are worried this will be reflected in lower enrolment next year. For many children, there is a risk of them being out of school indefinititely unless they and their families have the support they need to continue their education.
“The impact of children being out of school will extend beyond learning outcomes. In the most vulnerable communities many childhoods will be cut short with children at increased risk of child labour and early marriage. It will hit the most deprived and most marginalised the hardest, including the more than 660,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.”
Only 26% of the children surveyed by Save the Children reported that their family retained the same income generated before the Coronavirus outbreak. As Lebanon’s economic crisis deepens, it is vital that the Lebanese authorities – with support from the international community – roll out social assistance packages for vulnerable families. Support must also be directed to the education sector to ensure all children can remain enrolled and access improved remote learning methods.
Notes to Editors:
- Participants in the survey were Lebanese, as well as Syrian, Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, and Palestinian refugees who had arrived from Syria. The participants came from Beqaa valley, North Lebanon, South Lebanon, Mount Lebanon and Beirut. Data was collected from a total of 137 children and youth, of whom 78 (57%) were girls.
- There are an estimated 1.5 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon including 910,256 registered Syrian refugees, the highest concentration of refugees per capita in the world. About 45% of Palestinian refugees live in the country’s 12 formal camps, and 268,582 Syrian refugees reside in informal settlements.
- The first Covid-19 case was reported in Lebanon at the end of February, and schools were closed a few days later in early March. Classes had also been interrupted in October and November 2019, when thousands of Lebanese took to the streets to protest against the economic situation and the political crisis. Now, official exams have been cancelled as the ministry of education proposed curtailing the school year by the end of May, but private schools are continuing with the curriculum until June.
- Save the Children is responding to COVID-19 through the distribution of learning kits for children enrolled in education programmes, and is helping families increase prevention and protection against the virus through the distribution of disinfectant kits. Remote Case Management continues for all cases, while Save the Children continues to work with stakeholders on new approaches to alleviate the economic struggle and health fears of vulnerable populations.
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